Metroid Prime Remastered is a Satisfyingly Straightforward Return to a More Simple Time

Metroid Prime Remastered

A remake or remaster of Metroid Prime has long been a white whale for Nintendo fans. Some sort of revival of the game has been rumored by reliable voices for years now, and yet, nothing had materialized. And then, just when most of us had convinced ourselves the rumors were just some form of mass delusion… Metroid Prime Remastered was shadow dropped. Nintendo works in mysterious ways.

Metroid Prime is one of the most acclaimed games of all time, but of course, it’s also over 20 years old at this point. Does Retro Studios’ remaster make Samus’ first 3D adventure shine like new, or has this adventure simply passed its prime? Roll on for my thoughts…

Note: This is an opinion piece and, thus, not as detailed as a full, scored review would be.

Metroid Prime Remastered is more or less the same game as it was two decades ago, with all the good and bad that comes with that statement. While the game’s visual assets have been completely redone in HD, its level design, mechanics, and gameplay are essentially unchanged. The only real accommodation made for modern sensibilities is the introduction of proper dual-stick controls, which is appreciated, but kind of a bare minimum gesture. Meanwhile, you’ll have to get used to some unquestionably dated aspects – a lack of checkpoints, enemies that respawn every time you leave a room, and more.

As for the game’s visual upgrade, Retro Studios were in a somewhat unenviable position with this project. Metroid Prime Remastered certainly looks much better than the original game, but the limitations of the Switch mean its presentation isn’t exactly cutting-edge either. Don’t get me wrong, the remaster has its striking moments and runs very well, but if you’re coming off the visual splendor of, say, the Dead Space remake, adjust your expectations. Essentially, what we’re getting is a game from four console generations ago that now looks like it’s only from one or two generations ago.

Metroid Prime Remastered often feels like a game from another era, there’s no escaping that, but don’t get the wrong idea – in many ways, that’s actually a good thing. Replaying Metroid Prime, I was struck by how different its design philosophies are than most modern games. The game’s controls and mechanics are designed with simple playability as the primary concern and the game’s UI is made to be as readable as possible. Most first-person games today wouldn’t dare include a lock-on feature for fear it would make the game too “easy,” but Metroid Prime aims to keep the friction of its basic mechanics at a minimum so you can focus on what actually matters – exploration and environmental puzzle solving.

Metroid Prime’s simplicity isn’t just about making things easier either. When you first touch down on Tallon IV, you’re guided to where you need to go to get your precious missiles back, but once you’ve got them, you’re set loose. No map markers, no arrows or shining beacons telling you where you go. The game’s intuitive level design and still-excellent map system subtly guide you forward, but it’s up to you to figure things out. The game trusts you to find your way without handholding, and it’s all the more immersive for it. When I first jumped into Metroid Prime Remastered, I mainly wanted to check out the visual differences… then I looked up and realized three hours had passed. I have the feeling a lot of folks will have the same experience.

A Bounty Worth Hunting

Having played Metroid Prime Remastered, I understand why Nintendo might have been a bit perplexed about what to do with it. It does feel like the product of a very different time, but that isn’t necessarily a bad thing. The original developers of Metroid Prime did everything they could to make its core mechanics approachable while simultaneously respecting the intelligence and capabilities of players in a way few of today’s games do. Metroid Prime Remastered is the rare product that feels both nostalgic and refreshing simultaneously and is well worth checking out for veteran and budding bounty hunters alike. Now, Nintendo… where’s Metroid Prime 4?

Metroid Prime Remastered is available on Nintendo Switch in digital form. A physical version of the game launches on February 22.

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